Every Spring our school holds it annual Expression Explosion. This is an evening when all classrooms are open for parents to visit a showcase of student art, projects, and writing portfolios. Teachers spend hours decorating their rooms, meticulously displaying student work and preparing the obligatory repeating slideshow of images on their classroom projector. Essentially our school goes into “museum mode”. Parents and kids wander from room to room, spend a few seconds looking at the displays, say, “Oh, that’s nice,” and move on. Teachers are in the room acting as docents ready to greet visitors and answer questions about the student work.
This year in middle school we decided to try something different. Because our 6-8 grade students each have their own computer, many of the their projects are in electronic form and, much to the dismay of the teachers, not the type of thing that can be printed and put on a pretty display in their classrooms. (It’s really difficult to print sound and video.) Our solution? Switch from “museum mode” to “exhibit hall mode”. Since the work being displayed is created by students, why not let them share it?
So this year in addition to the classroom displays, the middle school teachers set up a projector, screen, microphone, and chairs in the middle school atrium. Various student projects from different subject areas across all three grades were selected. A presentation schedule was created and for two hours students were the stars, sharing their projects, how they created them, and what they learned in the process. Parents and fellow students were in the audience as they shared their wikis, PhotoStories, Prezis, videos, and Power Point presentations.
It was awesome! The kids, even the shy ones, did a fantastic job. The pride they showed in their work was evident. Each was rewarded with applause and compliments from their parents, peers, and teachers. Instead of static displays, attendees saw active presentations. Instead of teachers explaining the projects, students were explaining their learning. Our only regret – why didn’t we do this sooner?